Percocet is a prescription painkiller in the opioid family. The drug is administered in pill form, and each pill contains oxycodone (OxyContin), a narcotic painkiller, and acetaminophen, an over-the-counter drug that’s used for pain relief and fevers. Along with being an effective painkiller, Percocet also produces a powerful feeling of euphoria, and this leads to high instances of abuse.
Because OxyContin and Percocet are opioid narcotics, they make chemical changes in the brain’s wiring, meaning they affect emotions and moods as well as dull pain sensations. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) considers both of these versions of oxycodone Schedule II drugs, meaning that they have a high abuse potential that may lead to severe dependency. When the brain relies on oxycodone in order to feel “normal,” people may experience withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings after it leaves their bloodstream or when they attempt to stop using the drug.
How OxyContin is Abused
Abuse of a prescription medication may include drug diversion, taking more than the intended dose, or altering the drug in order to snort, smoke, or inject it to get “high.” OxyContin is meant to be an extended-release medication, spreading the dose out over a period of time. When the drug is altered or crushed and then snorted or injected, the entire dose enters the bloodstream at once instead of little by little. This greatly increases the risk for a potentially fatal overdose as well as increases the odds for developing a tolerance and physical dependence on the drug.
Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
The amount and severity of the withdrawal symptoms from Percocet and OxyContin depend on the amount the user took, the length of time he/she took the drug, the method of ingestion, and the severity of dependence.
Being a combination drug, Percocet may have lower levels of oxycodone in each dose, while OxyContin contains more per tablet. Therefore, people who abuse Percocet will likely need to take more and higher doses of it in order to feel the same euphoric effects as people who abuse OxyContin do.
The amount of oxycodone taken plays a central role in determining withdrawal severity, which leads to people believing that Percocet withdrawal is slightly less extreme than OxyContin withdrawal. Withdrawal occurs because the body and brain are scrambling to regain balance after relying on chemical interference.
The more dependent the brain is on the drug, the longer it will take to restore natural stability. Physical withdrawal symptoms from oxycodone withdrawal may be similar to symptoms of the flu, only more pronounced.
Physical withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Difficulties regulating temperature
- Muscle aches
- Yawning for no apparent reason
- Excessive tearing
- Dilated pupils
- Irregular heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Runny nose
- Changes in appetite
Withdrawal symptoms may also include psychological side effects, such as:
- Mood swings
- Trouble concentrating
- Drug cravings
Opioid withdrawal is rarely life-threatening, although it can be very uncomfortable. Combining Percocet or OxyContin with other substances, especially other central nervous system depressants like alcohol, can increase the severity and duration of withdrawal as well as heighten any and all risk factors. The acetaminophen in Percocet, for example, can damage the liver, leading to further complications and long-term side effects when taken in conjunction with alcohol, which also may negatively affect the liver and possibly lead to liver failure.
Timeline for Withdrawal
As with the severity of symptoms, the duration of withdrawal can also vary, depending on the same factors. Withdrawal generally starts within a few hours of the last dose or when the drug leaves the bloodstream. Percocet, as an immediate-release version of oxycodone, has a shorter half-life of around 3 to 4 hours, while the extended-release OxyContin has a longer half-life of around 12 hours, per Clinical and Translational Oncology. Therefore, withdrawal from Percocet may begin earlier, as little as 8 hours after the last dose, while OxyContin withdrawal usually begins within 24 hours of the last dose.
There is no specific withdrawal timeline for everyone, however, as individual genetic makeup is a factor. Initial withdrawal, sometimes called early withdrawal, usually begins within a few hours of the last dose and continues for a few days. Symptoms during this time are largely physical. Withdrawal symptoms are likely to peak between the 1st and 3rd days, and this is generally referred to as “acute withdrawal” when all symptoms may be at their worst. Emotional withdrawal symptoms, as well as some physical ones, may last for a few weeks or even a few months, and this may be deemed post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), or protracted withdrawal. While it may feel endless at the time, withdrawal does end, and the brain can and does heal. Several strategies and methods exist to help manage withdrawal symptoms as well.
Easing Withdrawal Symptoms
It is not recommended to stop taking opioid medications “cold turkey” or suddenly. Instead, a medical professional may set up a weaning schedule that reduces the dose slowly and in a controlled fashion to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Opioid withdrawal can also be eased with the help of some medications. Methadone, a partial opioid agonist, has been a popular drug dispensed by medical professionals to help wean people off opioid drugs like heroin and oxycodone. Partial opioid agonists act on the same opioid receptors in the brain as the full agonists, although at somewhat lower levels. This can help stave off drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms as the dosage is slowly lowered until no more is needed. Methadone still has the potential for abuse and dependency, however, so other medications may be preferred.
Buprenorphine products, including Subutex and Suboxone, are also partial opioid agonists that have the added feature of a ceiling effect. These drugs are not meant to create any “high,” and after a certain amount, the drug ceases to have any effect at all. Suboxone also contains naloxone, which is a partial opioid antagonist that blocks the opioid receptors in the brain from receiving any more opioids.
Medications alone are not sufficient in treating opioid dependency – psychotherapy, counseling, and support groups are also necessary to sustain long-term recovery.
Tips for Coping During Withdrawal
Behavioral therapies can help people in recovery develop coping mechanisms for some of the triggers that may have led to past self-destructive behaviors, including drug abuse. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, helps to modify negative thought and behavior patterns, increasing self-esteem and the image of oneself. Group and family counseling as well as peer support groups help to combat isolation and build up positive networks that the individual can lean on during recovery. It is important to remember that you are not alone. Recovery is attainable and within your reach. In addition to therapies, counseling, support groups, and medications, there are some other things you can do to ease the transition to recovery, such as:
- Eat a balanced and nutritious meals. Substance abuse can deplete natural vitamins that the body needs as well as make unhealthy changes to the appetite. Proper nutrition can help to repair some of the damage done during active substance abuse.
- Exercise regularly. Physical fitness can increase the levels of endorphins in the body, which are natural “feel-good” chemicals.
- Consider holistic therapy methods. Yoga and meditation can help to develop the connections between the mind and body and improve focus.
- Educate yourself. It is easier to cope with the side effects of drug dependency if you know what to expect.
- Have patience. Withdrawal does end; although it can take several weeks, there is an end in sight.
- Attend support group meetings. Maintaining healthy and positive connections can foster long-term recovery and reduce the severity and duration of symptoms as well as the initiation of relapse.
- Ask for help. There are many different types of substance abuse treatment models available to assist in reaching your goals.
Treatment for Percocet Addiction
Futures Recovery Healthcare is a state-of-the-art treatment facility that specializes in providing individualized care plans for each patient. Compassionate and professional staff members employ evidence-based treatment models that integrate scientific methods with current research and clinical expertise, as well as personal preferences. Call today to learn how we can help you or a loved one overcome a Percocet or OxyContin addiction.